Snowpal’s first Indian English Comedy Short Film. And it’s “based on a true story”. If you know me, you surely know I tend to have a number of stories. It’s not easy to convert them to videos (with limited $) but when has that stopped us from trying? 🙂
What could be more inspiring than reading about (& knowing) people who make an honest living all their lives, and live against all odds.
I’ve found it much harder to draw inspiration from “achievers” than from other ordinary folks such as myself who give it their very best every single day.
One of the reasons is quite simply that it’s easier to relate to them than to the Di Caprios, Nolans, Musks, Kalams, Laras or Jobs’ because it’s likely that you’ve never met or seen any of these folks, ever. The ones that work 9 hour days, 6 days a week – you’ve surely met them, done business with them, and last but not least, been inspired by them even if you haven’t actually realized it.
This article has surely inspired me a tiny bit more. And there’s probably no better way to kickoff a warm Sunday.
A recent connection of mine Vinitha Joseph is making an effort to connecting with this lady and if she does, the least I am looking to do is making a tiny monetary contribution. Sure, it’s the easiest thing to do but if it helps her even a teeny, tiny bit, I would shamelessly feel like an achiever myself for one day.
Disclaimer: I don’t know the lady in the post or the person who wrote it. But, I trust their credibilities. (I always start off trusting people even if it has bit me the wrong way more often than I would like to admit!)
On the eve of Mexican Independence Day, I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts on the very (read: very, very) little I know of Mexico, & Latin America.
I haven’t had the opportunity to work with folks based out of Mexico or Latin America, up until my most recent project, that is.
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with extremely talented & humble engineers living in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica & more. And I have learned a few things (Spanish, unfortunately, isn’t one of them), & I am thankful for all of those learnings.
1. Every country in Latin America is beautiful. Just brilliantly picturesque & blessed with fantastic landscape.
2. The people are extremely friendly (and there’s a lot of similarities with Indian & South Asian culture).
3. They have a lot of phenomenally talented software engineers (& I’ve more than plenty to learn from each one of them).
4. They may or may not have a lot of vegetarian food options 🙂
5. I may not have to pay for hotels when I travel to that part of the world (& travel there, I surely will).
Every day goes by in life, I realize how little I know about things in general – be it cultures or software development.
But, accepting my ignorance is one innate trait of mine I’ve always been proud of. If for no other reason, but simply because it has allowed me to continually learn, even if only a minuscule amount every day.
Given the situation we all find ourselves in 2020, I’ve surely seen an increase in the number of LinkedIn Posts that relate to unemployment where, in many cases, folks have been looking for a while. And while I’ve always had the urge to try and provide some help (as small as it may be), it has not been without its share of challenges either. One of the first bottlenecks I’ve run into is that my knowledge and experience are limited to Software Development, and while I believe it covers a whole gamut of roles (almost) within that area, that isn’t what everyone who is looking for work is hoping to get into. Obviously.
Folks from all walks of life are looking for jobs at any given time, but I’ve had people ask me what they should do if they wanted to switch careers into the world of computing. While I am not a career guidance expert, and I am surely not going to be pretend to be one, I feel like it may be useful to call out (even if at a high level) for a typical set of roles in a small Software Company so it helps anyone who is looking to make that switch. I want to stress on small because that’s where I’ve spent a lot of my recent years, and I am not certain I am exactly sure how the division of labor works in a large organization. Take what I mention here with a grain of salt, but I hope it helps you understand a little bit about how things work. Remember that there are bound to be a lot of gray areas where roles and responsibilities spill over but so long as you’ve learned at least one more thing, this article would’ve been worth your time, in my opinion.
I am going to list the roles in an atypical order simply because it is easiest for me to think that way (given our development process). So, don’t look at these as the right order.
This person is generally responsible for implementing the User Interface, and while they will work closely with the other members of the Development team, they will try to stay focused on ensuring that the look and feel of pages in your application conform with the specification, and that the pages support the necessary actions so the end user can interact with your product.
Take the page below, for instance. This is one of the many pages that our platform comprises of, and is the Dashboard. The UI Developer would be responsible for implementing all aspects of this page.
In the above screenshot, you see some data. There is 1 Pod Due, 0 Tasks Due, the pod due is called Team Members, there are a number of Recently Modified Pods, etc. Now, all of this data has to be coming from somewhere, and that somewhere is the API layer (as you can imagine, Software Architecture can get as complex and distributed as you wish but in the interest of not overwhelming someone who is new to this world, I am going to trivialize a lot of this stuff).
The API developer is primarily concerned about storing user’s data (along with metadata) in a persistence layer (typically, a database), and returning that data to the client. The UI Developer is agnostic to where this data is stored, how it is retrieved and so on and so forth, much like the API developer is agnostic to whether the returned data is rendered in a grid, or a tree component.
They would likely return a JSON response that looks something like this –
There are other formats they could choose to return this response in, say XML,but that’s rather unlikely. Regardless, just so you know the difference, here is what the XML representation of this content might look like –
They would implement what’s called an API, and that could be implemented in a variety of ways as well, but if they used a RESTful interface, it could look as simple as this:
Now, if you wrote a new API today, I suggest you go with GraphQL but that discussion is for another day 🙂
The UI and API Developer will exchange a contract so each of them knows what the other person’s expectation is. This is called a Specification.
We now know that a UI Developer will implement the User Interface but what they would implement is driven by what a UX Designed gives them. Think of a UI Developer’s role as one that is made up of 2 parts:
Implement the page from a cosmetic standpoint
Implement the page from a functional standpoint
The UX Designer provides the requirements so the UI Developer can take care of #1 above. And how do they do it? They have many options as well but what they will likely end up giving the UI Developer are Wireframes or Mockups.
Think of a Wireframe as something that is drawn digitally (doesn’t have to be digitally created to begin with, as sometimes, it is quick and efficient to hand draw it and then, share a photo of it)and represents the look and feel of the page.
A Mockup, on the other hand, goes a step further and shows how the page might literally look, along with navigation as well (so the UI Developer knows what should happen when the user clicks a button on the page, or hits a link).
As to how detailed the artifact should be, regardless of which of the above 2 it ends up being, that’s entirely left to the designer, and/or the organization. It can range from giving the UI developer an idea to defining it to a tee.
Or, it could be like the image below that, believe it or not, was one of our “wireframes” and in such cases, it is much like telling the UI developer to Go, figure!
But, ultimately, what matters is that the end result is what your Product Manager has in mind – something like this!
And that’s not a good segue to discuss the next role – Product Manager.
This is the person who determines what is it that your product should even be doing to begin with, but more specifically (and for an existing offering), they determine what that next page your team builds should be, and what problems it should aim to address, and how competitive it might be.
If you are building an internal product for a mid-sized or large company, this person will work with your Business team to identify gaps, requirements and the whole nine yards, and put together artifacts that dictate the next set of things your team should work on.
If you are building an external product, their job would entail doing market research, competitive analyses and more to come up with that next list of things to do. I know a lot of people who were developers at one point, and then moved on to do Product Management work. This is a very exciting role as well! After all, in this role, you get to make the call on what gets done, and when it gets done. So, it ought to be exciting.
In a smaller organization, the Product Manager ends up playing this role as well but in larger organizations, this person is responsible to define the requirements at a Business level. They will then hand it over to the Product Manager who will translate these requirements in plain English to a more technical document (aka, specification) that your developers would understand, and can work off of.
An application is made up of several pages (Dashboard being just one of the many pages), and many APIs, and multiple tiers, and numerous integration with both internal & 3rd party systems and services. And a number of applications will collectively work together to make your ecosystem. Now, how they do all interact amongst and within each other?
It is up to the Architect to answer that question. There are a number of Architecture related roles, some of which are:
and the list goes on…
For a smaller shop, it is usually the same individual (or same group of individuals) who handle all these areas. As to what separates these roles, I think it is beyond the scope of this article, so I’ll try to cover that in a follow-up article (at some point) but it should suffice to know that this person has a complex set of responsibilities.
While you could be an architect who’s hands off, I have never done that role so I can’t speak to it. I’ve architected a number of applications (across all tiers and stacks) over the years and I’ve contributed quite a bit to each of their code bases, and it is my (strong) personal opinion that this role should be hands on at all times (but I am sure not everyone might agree).
Once again, in a smaller organization, the architect would play this role, alongside doing development as well (hint: Snowpal!) but in a company that can afford this role, this person would oversee all the engineering teams, work with Architects and Developers in all teams, and ensure that the product(s) owned by the company are sound from an engineering standpoint, needed from a market standpoint, jazzy from a coolness standpoint, secure from a security standpoint, extensible from an architectural standpoint, stable & performant from a credibility standpoint, and more!
Sure, you have a nice product but before you release it to the larger world out there, someone (someone other than your development team, for sure!) needs to bless it so it does what it is supposed to. This responsibility lies with the Tester. They test your product in more than 1 way to make sure it works, and it works consistently.
They can do this in one of many ways:
Test it manually every single time (unlikely for many reasons, but a possibility)
Write test/automation scripts to test the various tiers in your application(s)
Write unit tests (though developers would do this), functional tests, integration tests, performance tests, end to end tests and so on and so forth.
Their job is to break your application so your development team can fix it, and make sure it is all good to go before your end user encounters a problem. This is a another important role because if you find a bug in development and fix it, it will cost you (both in terms of money and time) a whole lot lesser than if the same bug were to be reported in production.
You have a great product, and a wonderful team but it isn’t complete (not by a stretch) till you have a DevOps Engineer who can ensure that your changes make their way (aka, deployed) to the various environments continually. This area has grown in recent years and while your developers might play this role in a smaller shop, as your company grows, you will need dedicated engineers to handle all the Docker, & Kubernetes stuff.
Your API Developers might be a tad more eager to pick up these tasks as they blend quite well with the tiers they work on.
In a small company, there is only C* role but, of course, in larger companies, you will need a CEO, a CFO, a CIO, a COO, and more…
I can’t write more in this section because I would merely be speculating 🙂
At Snowpal, we don’t yet have a Creative Team, but that will be one of the first areas we will expand on as we grow. This team will create our Campaigns for Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Apple and more. Right now, we take turns to do this, and it is certainly not easy (and definitely not if you don’t have the part of the brain that contributes to this – I surely don’t).
I am sure this team is part of the larger Advertising Teams, but I honestly don’t know more about the roles and responsibilities of this team in larger organizations.
Project (or Development) Manager
You need someone to make sure all your teams understand their asks, their dependencies, deadlines and so on. This is the Project or Development Manager’s role. They will organize daily stand ups, identify blockers, create and manage Sprints, and work with all the stakeholders to make sure your ship is sailing smoothly.
They may play the role of a Scrum Master as well, but some organizations separate these roles. In our case, and in smaller organizations, the Architect handles this responsibility.
HR, Legal, Sales, Marketing, etc.
I have an idea about the roles and responsibilities of the other teams but not enough to write about them (or answer follow-up questions) so I am going to leave them be!
That’s basically it. Hopefully, you’ve learned at least one thing that you didn’t already know from this article.
Check out how all these roles worked in sync to create the Web App, Mobile Web App and Native Mobile Apps @ https://snowpal.com!
On the contrary, I had quite a few options and I chose to come to the US because that is all I ever wanted to do.
Here’s a little bit of background about me to give context to both the heading and the purpose of this article.
I was born and raised in India.
I was not born into a poor family.
I had access to (good) education all my growing years.
India is a peaceful country.
Most of my family lives in India, and they are all nice people.
Now that those facts are out of the way, let me try to explain why I felt the urge to state those.
Too often, when I read the news, I get the impression that media projects the wrong impression that folks migrate to America because they had few other options – it is almost always a sob, sorry story of rags to riches. While the beauty of this land is that it is generally welcoming to folks from all backgrounds, it is inaccurate to paint a picture of the US as a place to only consider when you are persecuted in your own countries, or if there is something real bad happening there. Yes, we definitely will continue to be a country that gives people that second, third or nth opportunity to make a lovely living for themselves, but it is imperative that we also project ourselves as a better place to be even if you are not actually suffering wherever it is that you are at. You come to America not just because there are issues in your country, but also because it is a wonderful country and there simply is no place else like it. Period.
Despite all its shortcomings, America is the best country in the world. For a lot of us.
And here are some reasons why I think I am blessed to live in the best nation in the world.
I’ve done a fair bit of travel in my life (not as much as I would like to, or a lot of other people, but I have seen a little bit of the world). And every time, I am in a foreign country, I realize how much more of a home America is to me. Yes, I grew up in India but, at this point, I’ve lived well more than half my life in the States, starting with the first penny (or dollar) that I earned in my life, which happened to be in this country as well (and it was literally in the “country” – in a small town in Ohio!).
They say that when you migrate, time stops. And your awareness of those places is stuck in time. What that translates to is that you are culturally disconnected from your place of birth, and as time passes, you become more and more detached to the point that most of the early childhood years start feeling like nothing more than distant memory. I say this because whatever it is that I end up sharing about India is likely very dated (so take it with a grain of salt).
So, as “different” as I may look, or talk (oh yeah, the accent takes 2 lifetimes to leave you, trust me!), I don’t honestly ever feel like an immigrant (except when I watch the news where they beat this word to death). Does it mean America is utopia, and there are no issues, whatsoever? Of course, not. I may be silly but am certainly not that stupid. However, we have to discuss these issues in the context of Planet Earth, and the rest of the countries that it comprises of.
Life is not fair. I’ve heard more than 1 super accomplished person say that (starting from Bill Gates, to Schwarzenegger, to Will Smith, to Matthew McConnaughey). But, I don’t think it is fair to blame that on a country, unless the system promotes it. And I strongly believe that our system does not promote it. Sure, certain organizations and individuals may exploit certain loopholes, but I don’t think I would place the blame on the system in entirety, and I say this as someone, whose experience is not solely limited to living in the United States.
As an immigrant, you are bound to make a ton of sacrifices, because a better life doesn’t come at the cost of nothing. First and foremost, you don’t live close to your family (No, that’s not a good thing!). Next, you’ll miss all the festivals you dearly love (for me, one of them is coming shortly – Diwali!). If you are wondering why I might miss them when there are quite a number of Indians in the US who celebrate Diwali (and other such festivals), and there seem to be a lot of gatherings and parties around this time (I mean, in a more normal world, not in this day and age of lock downs), I suggest you celebrate one Christmas in Chennai, India (where I come from)! You’ll surely realize what I mean by this.
Sure, going back to living in India would help satiate some of these needs and wants,but I have no doubts that I will be as lost (and most likely, more lost) as I was when I grew up in India. The only thing I ever understood (even if to a partial extent) when I lived there was my family, and friends, and some of the courses (certainly, not Mechanics & Optics, or Thermodynamics!) I had enrolled in College. That apart, I was pretty much lost. I didn’t understand the system one bit – not the traffic regulations, not the application forms, not the bureaucracy (as much of it that you could be subjected to, as a 17-18 year old), and not a number of other things. India is a very nice country but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
I landed in Houston, Texas when I first arrived in the US, and I fell in love with America right way (barring the freak out sessions that went like this, “Oh my Goodness, what did I do. I know no one here. I want to go back”). I didn’t understand a lot of it then, and I still don’t understand a lot of it now. But, the beauty of the land is that you do not have to understand or accept everything. Making social connections is a whole lot harder than professional ones, I’ve realized, as crossing the seas on a plane and getting somewhere in a few hours is made possible by technology, but technology doesn’t necessary bridge the cultural divide, not in lightning speed at least.
But, the beauty once again lies in our differences as much as it is in our similarities. It would be boring if we are all too alike.
At this point, you may ask (and justifiably so) what the purpose of this article is, and what am I trying to get that. And to that, I would say one of 2 things – (1) be a tiny bit more patient, and (2) You didn’t sign up for a Pulitzer prize winning author’s article in nytimes, did you? So, don’t expect too much 🙂
But, I do have a point (as long winded as I might be, getting to it). Too often, I see America projected as a place to consider when you have no other options, or you or your country is in a state of turmoil. And that offends me as someone who loves this land for what it truly is. It is a place to be even if you are not struggling, and even if you have plenty of other options, and that’s simply because, you will not feel as much at home anywhere else as much as you feel at home here (not even in your place of birth, at times). And yes, I say this, as a colored person who doesn’t understand a ton of things about America.
Despite what we see in the news, I think there is more unity in America than in most places in the world. And we surely will become even more united.
While each of us finds inspiration in different things, here are some things about America that continue to blow my mind (I used the word “things” loosely because as someone who isn’t a native English speaker, I can’t immediately think of a better English word, and even that shortcoming is perfectly alright in America!).
Where else do you have someone like Clint Eastwood who has been making movies to satisfy so many generations? My dad used to watch his movies growing up, then I did, and now my son does.
Where else do you have someone like the Wright brothers, or Steve jobs, or Dennis Ritchie, Thomas Alva Edison (maybe, UK – another country I love!)?
Where else do you have something like Hollywood that entertains the whole world?
Where else do you have companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Tesla, or Facebook, Uberthat continuously innovate, and change the way we all live everyday?
Where else do you have a New York City (simply the best city in the world)?
Where else can you get pizzas this (super) size? 🙂
Where else do you get the opportunity to interact with people from all parts of the world?
Where else can you enjoy the beauty of all races, religions, sexes, and everything else that actually unitesus?
(…and one day not so much in the distant future, I hope this list will include Snowpal, and the productivity improvements it has brought to this world!)
I made my first dollar in the US, I got my first job in the US, my wife and I met for the first time in the US, my son was born in the US, I bought my first used & new car in the US, I bought my first home in the US, I founded my first company in the US, I built my first product in the US, I built my first Mobile App in the US, and during the course of my lifetime, there will be a lot more of these…
So, to everyone who has ever tried to tell me that America may not be the best country in the world, I will say this: you are dead wrong.
Yes, we have a number of issues as a nation, but who doesn’t? I am confident that America will get through all of this, and we will continue to be the best country in the world, a country that is not only welcoming to anyone & everyone who has a desire to lead a better life but also serves as an incomparable source of inspiration to every human on Planet Earth (and beyond) for years and generations to come. I have no doubts.
As you can imagine, that’s a lot of work. We are a small group of extremely committed & passionate individuals, and while we realize there are more mountains to climb, we also know that we’ve come a long way.
First of all, hope you are all staying safe. If the last few months have taught all of us something, it is simply that we have to appreciate life – both for the things we already have, and putting us in a position of privilege to work towards the rest of the things we desire to have.
I would like to begin this article by quoting one of my most favorite poetic lines from Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:
and miles to go before I sleep…
We are coming up on our first product anniversary very shortly and I wanted to take some time to reminisce about the journey thus far, talk about where we are currently at as a SaaS Startup, and touch a tiny bit on our roadmap, and the challenges that lie ahead of us.
If you like numbers (I certainly do), you may enjoy this next section. But, before I share the specific numbers, let me give you a high level overview of our Product, Technology Stack and Environments so you get some context to these numbers that I am going to share with you.
We are a small team of highly self-motivated engineers who wholeheartedly believe that the best way to solve any problem is not necessarily how we’ve done it all along. To rephrase that and put it slightly differently, we believe that –
Just because we did something a certain way in the past does not in any way, form or shape mean we have to do it the exact same way in future.
So, we are constantly on the lookout to doing things in a better, more current and recommended way, and that, in this current environment of Software Development, is changing constantly – literally by the week or month. Gone are days where you could do the same thing, the same way, every single day.
So, every time we implement a feature (be it UI, API, deployment, or integration related), we pose the exact same question to ourselves – how should we go about implementing this? The answer to this question from a Technology Stack standpoint has rarely been the same. Given that, here are some languages, frameworks and libraries that our stack currently comprises of (and I promise you that if I had written this a week later, it would’ve been slightly different, and most likely, lengthier) –
Sure, not all of these play an equal role in the composition of our stack but they all play a part, not to mention an important one, in keeping all aspects of our platform functioning, performant and highly available. Some (as in the list below), you would experience directly, and others, not so much, at least directly.
Whether you like to manage your projects, and your life at work and home, on your Desktop or your Mobile Device, we have you covered.
Here’s a Tidbit – when we started building our Native Mobile App, we were hoping that we could piggy back on the countless UI/UX discussions we had had for building the Web App and, thereby, save a good amount of time in not having these discussions.
But, as it turned out, and rather unsurprisingly so, that wasn’t to be the case. While we knew things wouldn’t translate verbatim to a smaller real estate, we didn’t quite think (or perhaps want to admit) that building a Native Mobile App would require the same number of discussions, and pixel pushing, that the Web App required out of us.
Yes, we were solving the same set of problems on the mobile device, but they had to be solved very, very differently so the end user had the best experience. I don’t know why I felt the urge to mention this as this wasn’t any easier or harder than any of our other challenges, but who knows – maybe, this piece of information ends up helping you if you find yourselves in the same boat.
While I’ll admit that we lack what we need on our DevOps side of things (we expect to cross this bridge in the coming months), we didn’t compromise on the number of environments we needed to ensure that our app functioned smoothly across platforms and clients (with a 100% uptime). Here’s an insight into our environment setup –
We have 4 environments for each of our apps:
We also have a 5th environment to manage our cron jobs.
In addition, we also have Native Mobile Apps that get deployed to the App and Play Stores (which work very differently by the way).
When you have a Web App, a Mobile Web App and 2 Native Mobile Apps, that’s a handful (for any sized team, let alone a smallish one). Add to it active development of new features and enhancements, and bug fixes, we need to have a pretty robust branching strategy so we have a handle on the various PRs, code reviews, testing processes and deployments.
This is a detailed topic in itself (much like each of the other items above) but, at a high level, we have these branches (outside of the feature branches):
(feature-branches) develop-interim develop master
And, here’s a trivialized form of our git workflow process:
At this point, you should have a pretty good, high level overview of our product, environment, technology stack and branching strategies, and given that, maybe you are ready to join the team? 🙂
Jokes aside, this is a good time to delve into some interesting numbers!
Web App Version: 1.0.170
API Version: 1.0.171
Mobile App Version: 1.0.41
Without analyzing the rational behind these numbers, a simple way to interpret that is that we’ve had at least 170 deployments of the Web App(s), 171 deployments of our API App(s), and 41 deployments of the Native Mobile App(s).
Each deployment goes through a git workflow process requiring further deployments to each of our lower environments, so once again, to keep things simple, you can treat it this way:
Web App: 170 * 5 => 850 Deployments
API App: 171 * 5 => 855 Deployments
Native Mobile Apps: 41 * 2 => 82 Deployments
TOTAL: 1787 Deployments
Let’s break that number down further –
Deployments in a year: 1787
(Average) Deployments in a month: ~148
(Average) Deployments in a week: ~34
(Average) Deployments in a day: ~5
We’ve had about 5 deployments per day across environments and servers during the course of the first year that we’ve been in service!
What that translates to you as an end user (either as a current one, or as a potentially future one) is that we’ve had that many opportunities to enhance our apps so they can play a role in your life on a daily basis.
My original intent was to discuss our roadmap in this article but that was before it was a 100 pages long! Given the length of this article, I think it is best if I did it in my subsequent write-up.